By Ben Velderman
HOBOKEN, N.J. – Are charter schools popular with middle class parents because they have fewer poor and minority students than the public schools do?
The head of one New Jersey teachers union thinks that’s the case – at least in his community.
During Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Hoboken Education Association President Gary Enrico said the only reason charter parents are avoiding the local public schools is because “they don’t want their children in the classroom with the kids from applied housing or the projects,” reports the Hoboken Patch.
Enrico dismissed the idea that parents choose charter schools because they produce better academic results. He said Hoboken Public Schools are nothing less than “great.”
“We have great teachers, we have great schools, we have great facilities,” said Enrico, a veteran teacher with the district, according to the Hoboken Patch.
This isn’t the first time the union leader has gone public with his theory. Enrico made similar comments during the June 11 school board meeting, the Hoboken Patch reports.
Other Hoboken teachers and public school apologists apparently share Enrico’s incendiary views.
“The comments that I got from faculty members and the people who are in the district basically applaud what I said that night,” the union president boasted.
On Tuesday, Enrico said he’d love for his theory to be proven wrong, but he doesn’t think that’s possible.
“So let’s call it the way it is,” he said.
The numbers show Hoboken Public Schools are far from “great,” as the union boss claims.
According to recent data from the New Jersey Department of Education, a staggering 39 percent of Hoboken High School students aren’t proficient in math.
As bad as that is, things were even worse two years ago when 67 percent of Hoboken high schoolers were found to have insufficient math skills.
If this constitutes greatness for Hoboken’s school leaders, it’s no wonder local families are fleeing the government schools.
A visitor to the Hoboken Patch site pointed out another flaw to Enrico’s theory: If anyone is eligible to attend charter schools, how can Enrico say charter parents don’t want their children to associate with a particular group?
That’s an excellent point – and if Enrico was to do a survey, he’d likely find that “kids from the projects” attend Hoboken’s charter schools just like their middle-class peers do.
Another Hoboken Patch reader summarized the situation this way:
“If Mr. Enrico is typical of instructors at HHS, you can bet my kid won’t go there. What a hateful, untrue accusation. Academic performance is the key, and Hoboken’s public schools must raise their game to attract young families. And yes, kids from public housing can and do enter the charters’ lotteries.”
Other community members have said Enrico should apologize for making those divisive comments.
That probably won’t happen.
As the union leader made clear at Tuesday night’s board meeting, he has been harboring these thoughts “for about 15 years now.”